Monday, December 11, 2017

Then and now: Comparing Plano's newest brewery to the one that started it all

Unlawful Assembly is the third brewing entity to exist in Plano (Photo © Brian Brown/Beer in Big D).

Nearly 30 years after the last production brewery operated in the city, Unlawful Assembly Brewing Co. (UABC) has opened its doors in Plano. The brewery exists on the third floor of Legacy Food Hall, in the new Legacy West development.

Indeed, while breweries have popped up in all corners of the Metroplex, Plano has seemed like a forgotten city. Other than an offshoot of the Gordon Biersch brewpub chain (just across the Dallas North Tollway from UABC, in the Shops at Legacy), Plano has been bereft of a dedicated brewing operation since Texas' first ever microbrewery, Reinheitsgebot Brewing Co. (affectionately known as Reinbo), closed in 1989.

Of course, things are a lot different now than they were in the 1980s. While UABC's setup screams modern-day industrial facility, getting Reinbo up and running meant scavenging and/or inventing the equipment used to make its beer.

For example, UABC's system consists of a newly-minted 30-barrel brewhouse, along with 21 large-scale tanks situated for use in the cellar and production space.

Unlawful Assembly's three-vessel, 30-barrel brewhouse and an impressive lineup of tanks can be
viewed on the second and third floors of Legacy Food Hall (Photos © Brian Brown/Beer in Big D).

And Reinbo? Its founders equipped their brewery by converting used dairy equipment for things like a lauter tun and fermentation vessels, making a grain grinder from scratch, and retrofitting a household water heater to act as a hot liquor tank.

At Reinbo, dairy tanks served as fermentation vessels (left), grain grinders were made by hand (middle) and
water heaters posed as hot liquor tanks (right). Photos courtesy of Russ Klisch, president of Lakefront Brewery in Wisconsin.

Regarding the types of beer made by each company, as the name suggests, Reinbo's products followed the German Purity Law - i.e. the brewing ingredients consisted of only malt, hops, water and yeast. The brewery's two main beers were a pale lager called Collin County Pure Gold, and a dark lager called Collin County Black Gold.

As for UABC, Plano's newest brewery has already gone on record as saying that it "won't be afraid to break a few brewing rules." In other words, it won't be guided by such limitations. One of UABC's beers proves that to some extent, considering Idol Time, a passion fruit pineapple wheat, was among the brewery's opening day pours.

Other beers on tap at UABC, at least for now, come together to form a fairly standard craft beer lineup. A brown ale, a pale, an amber lager and a witbier make up the list of what's to be had currently, but further experimentation is promised. Should that come to pass, Plano residents can look forward to a more diverse range of offerings, especially compared to what was being made in the city more than 30 years ago.

Either way, it's interesting to see how the industry has changed since the times of the first microbrewery to exist in the city, the region and the state. Reinbo may be a thing of the past, but the efforts of those behind it laid the early groundwork that allows breweries like Unlawful Assembly to be a part of the future.

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